Zenith - The New York Watch Auction: EIGHT New York Saturday, June 10, 2023 | Phillips
  • Manufacturer: Zenith
    Year: Circa 1969
    Reference No: A384; SP 1301
    Case No: 232E498
    Model Name: El Primero
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 3019 PHC, 31 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Zenith pin buckle
    Dimensions: 37mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement, and buckle signed.
    Accessories: Accompanied by Zenith period instruction manual, undated international guarantee booklet, and signed strap.

  • Catalogue Essay

    One of the most celebrated automatic movements of modern watchmaking, the name “El Primero” refers to both the movement (translating to “the first” in Spanish) and the line of watches Zenith debuted featuring this movement. Launched in 1969, the El Primero caliber was simply revolutionary. It was one of the very first automatic chronograph movements ever created, and furthermore, it was designed as a wholly integrated chronograph movement rather than being an automatic movement with an added chronograph module.

    Additionally, it operates at 36,000 VPH, an extremely high frequency for a mechanical watch, ensuring superior timekeeping performance. The story of the El Primero is not only a study in mechanical engineering, but is also fraught with drama: the equipment to produce the El Primero was condemned during the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s and set to be destroyed, but was heroically rescued by one Charles Vermot who had covertly hidden the equipment in an attic. When Zenith won the contract to produce the ébauche for the upcoming automatic Daytona based on the existence of leftover assembled movements, Vermot was instrumental in the re-uncovering of the methods to produce the El Primero.

    Approximately 2,600 examples were produced of this specific reference A384, but very few have remained in this state of preservation and even fewer with a startlingly homogenous tropicalized dial. The subsidiary seconds dials, as well as the outer track, have both aged to a truly spectacular caramel color. Furthermore, the original blue protective stickers remain visible to parts of the case and caseback. The present tropical A384 retains its original guarantee booklet, instruction manual, and even the original leather strap.

  • Artist Biography


    Swiss • 1865

    Since Zenith's beginnings, founder George Favre-Jacot sought to manufacture precision timepieces, realizing quality control was best maintained when production was housed under one roof. Zenith remains one of the few Swiss manufacturers to produce their own in-house movements to this day.

    Today, the brand is best known for the "El Primero," the firm's most successful automatic chronograph movement. In an interesting twist of fate, the company that owned Zenith during the 1970s decided to move on to quartz movements and therefore sought to destroy the parts and tools necessary to make mechanical movements. One watchmaker realized this folly and hid the tools and parts before they were destroyed. In 1984, he returned them to Zenith so they could once again make the El Primero movement.

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Ref. A384; SP 1301
A well-preserved and highly attractive stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with date, tropical dial, and guarantee booklet

Circa 1969
37mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement, and buckle signed.

$6,000 - 12,000 

Sold for $50,800

Contact Specialist

Paul Boutros
Head of Watches, Americas
+1 (212) 940-1293
Isabella Proia
Head of Sale, New York
+1 (212) 940 1285

The New York Watch Auction: EIGHT

New York Auction 10 - 11 June 2023